Luka Doncic extends scoring streak, takes over in fourth to lead Mavericks to win over Bucks

MILWAUKEE — With 9:16 left in the fourth quarter Sunday afternoon, Luka Doncic and the Mavericks signaled how badly they wanted to beat the Milwaukee Bucks.

Just two minutes into his typical five-minute rest break to start the fourth quarter, Doncic stood up from the bench and checked back in.

Already?

Clearly, he didn’t want to watch the defending champs answer his team’s baskets with comeback runs of their own any longer.

So started Doncic’s brilliant 10-point, five-rebound, three-assist fourth quarter in Dallas’ 118-112 victory that helped the Mavericks outscore Milwaukee by 7 points after he returned to cap their NBA-leading 17th double-digit comeback victory.

With 32 points, 15 assists, 8 rebounds and three steals in 39 minutes, Doncic extended his streak of at least 30 points to a career-best five consecutive games and logged his third 30-point, 15-assist performance of the season — as many as the rest of the NBA combined.

Five teammates — Dwight Powell (22 points, 13 rebounds), Reggie Bullock (16), Jalen Brunson (15) Dorian Finney-Smith (11) and Spencer Dinwiddie (11) — joined Doncic in double-digit scoring.

Perhaps the most dangerous part of it all?

The Mavericks are just one week and three games against sub-.500 teams from Doncic’s favorite time of the year — a third postseason run.

At 49-30 with three regular-season games remaining, the No. 4 Mavericks sit a half-game behind Golden State (49-29) with the head-to-head tiebreaker in their favor and improved to 2.5 games ahead of the No. 5 Utah Jazz (46-32) for the home-court advantage cutoff.

The Mavericks answered one wake-up call Sunday morning before facing the Milwaukee Bucks — their hotel alarms for a season-earliest noon tipoff for an ABC-exclusive broadcast in the Fiserv Forum.

A few hours later, they responded to another.

Less than two full days after allowing a season-worst 135 points to the playoff-eliminated Wizards, Dallas heeded coach Jason Kidd’s calls for better defense. They watched film of Friday’s porous loss to Washington and clips from the 67-point first half Wednesday against Cleveland Cavaliers.

And then weathered a key absence.

Maxi Kleber emerged as a late addition to the injury report Saturday, questionable with right ankle soreness, and Kidd ruled him out Sunday morning. Ongoing offensive slump aside, Kleber had been poised to frequently guard two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo.

A steady rotation of help coverage and double teams, however, proved stout enough.

Antetokounmpo finished with 28 points, 10 rebounds and two assists in 40 minutes. Jrue Holiday added 20 points, including five 3-pointers, and Dallas limited All-Star Khris Middleton to 11 points on 3 of 14 shooting.

After the Bucks made 8 of 16 threes in the first quarter, the Mavericks held them to 7 of 26 over the remaining three periods.

For the fifth time since the All-Star break, Doncic out-played one of the league’s premier superstars on their home court. Antetokounmpo joined a standout crew with LeBron James, Steph Curry, Jayson Tatum and Kevin Durant as Doncic’s recent victims.

Doncic’s latest masterpiece ensured the Mavericks will finish the regular season with at least one win over all but three teams — the NBA-best Phoenix Suns and the lottery-bound Wizards and New York Knicks.

Find more Mavericks coverage from The Dallas Morning News here.

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